Faces on Faith: Listen with the ears of your heart and soul
Last week I saw a baby in the grocery store, just looking and listening to everything around her. She was so wide-eyed and curious and she reminded me of how well we listened when we were infants, long before we were able to verbalize things. Sure we cried once in awhile, probably for good reason, but as the linguistic patterns in our brains grew and developed and long before we actually formed words and sentences, we listened intently. We listened to people, to the wind, to the sound of birds and storms, to the rush of water and falling rain. We listened to noise and were even acutely aware of silence. Our innate human capacity as a newborn programed us to listen long before words got into the action.
As I reflected on this incident, I wondered for a moment with all the talking we do as adults, that perhaps we’ve forgotten to listen, to hear, especially to God. Perhaps we’re just out of practice. We enjoy talking about God, how God works in our lives, where God guides us and comforts us. We talk about how God is with us in our joy and in our suffering. But, I’m afraid that with all that “talk” we don’t give our hearts and souls time, or the opportunity to be silent and to LISTEN to where God’s Spirit is moving around us, especially through other people or events impacting our lives.
St. Benedict, who lived c. 450-543 CE, was deeply cognizant of the need for his fellow monks to listen better and more deeply and more often, and he developed a “Rule of Life” to assist them with this sometimes difficult process. In the opening sentences to his “Rule of Life” (which is 73 chapters in length), Benedict wrote, “Listen, child of God. Attend to the message you hear and make sure it pierces to your heart, so that you may accept with willing freedom and fulfill by the way you live the directions that come from God.” When Benedict was praised by outsiders for the breadth and depth of his words, he would quietly reply, “I need no praise. Just listen, child of God. These are only little rules for beginners.”
Simple little rules for beginners, which is where I always feel I am on my faith journey, beginning again. Rainer Rilke loved that spiritual mindset, and he always reminded people, “Resolve to be always beginning, to be a beginner.” Heartfelt and encouraging advice for all of us beginning to listen, simple and yet so complex when it comes to our faith journeys. Perhaps during these summer months, with a bit more time on our hands, we could practice with God and with one another, practice listening, and begin to recover our capacity to listen with the ears of a newborn child. Benedict would smile.